DOD needs more time for Pagat studies - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

DOD needs more time for Pagat studies

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - Opposition to the buildup gained momentum when a lawsuit was filed last November against the Department of Defense claiming they did not follow the National Environmental Policy Act in choosing Pagat as the site for live firing ranges. The plaintiffs also claimed the federal government did not adequately consider alternative sites - ironically, the latest twist in the case has the DOD asking to put the entire lawsuit on hold for three months to do just that.

Although the Record of Decision, signed eight months ago, clearly sites the firing range complex in the Pagat/Route 15 area, the DOD contends it hasn't made a final decision and now wants to do additional studies on the citing of the live fire training range complex at Pagat. In order to do that though, the feds want the case remanded to the Department of the Navy and a stay of the case for 90 days to conduct that review. A motion was filed in the district court in Hawaii where the Guam Preservation Trust, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and We Are Guahan first filed suit against the DOD late last year.

We Are Guahan member Attorney Leevin Camacho told KUAM News, "It's basically admits that there may be alternatives that they didn't consider the first time around and they also have come up with a new math on figuring out where the ten million bullets that they plan on firing at Pagat Village will go."

While the DOD says they want to conduct the studies to determine if a technical solution could minimize the footprint of the range, the plaintiffs oppose the request for a stay as they believe DOD's plans to undertake the citing analysis would be done without any public review or input that's required by NEPA and federal laws.  Instead they believe the feds' request is simply a "strategic maneuver designed to plug obvious holes" in the defense's argument rather than a good faith effort to consider alternative sites for firing ranges that they've been asking for.

Said Camacho, "We've always wanted DOD to look at other alternative we have always wanted them to leave Pagat Village alone; it's just sad to see that they want to do that with out involving the public that's what has been problematic from Day One is that they want to make these decisions without telling people what's really going on what going on behind the scenes."

According to the briefs, the Navy expects that in the next three months they'll have a better estimate as to the likely timing for making a final decision regarding a specific site for the live fire training range complex. At the same time, DOD also reserved the right to move to dismiss the complaint altogether at a later time. Judge Leslie Kobayashi indicated yesterday that she is inclined to grant the motion for voluntary remand and stay only if the plaintiffs concerns are addressed with two particular measures that they believe would ensure integrity and transparency of the process the Navy is proposing to undertake.

"Basically saying that DOD if you agree the allow public participation and if you agree to allow the plaintiffs, which is We Are Guahan, the Guam Preservation Trust and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, time to brief the matter if you guys do decide to continue with your plans to acquire Pagat and the surrounding areas than we don't need to have a hearing," the attorney continued.

If that agreement can't be reached, a hearing will be held this Friday in Hawaii - Saturday Guam time - Camacho says if DOD agrees to the terms than the lawsuit will be put in a lull allowing the Navy 90 days to conduct the studies. "They are going to either say we need to do more studies or another environmental impact study or they are going to say we were right the first time and we want to acquire Pagat and if they decide to stay there course and to get Pagat for the firing ranges than the lawsuit is going to proceed," said Camacho.

Because they characterize the relationship between the parties as a one of "shattered trust", We Are Guahan wants to ensure the public is able to participate in the reexamination of Pagat this time around.  The parties must submit briefs on their positions on the pending motion before the court by Thursday night Guam time.  If granted, the court would hold a status conference in 120 days.

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